Almost every Project Manager is required to report project status to the sponsor and stakeholders. Unless you are the sponsor of your projects and you are the only stakeholder, you need to provide progress update to n number of people – sponsors, stakeholders, and your boss of course. Even if stakeholders do not ask for the status report, it is for the good of Project Manager himself to provide periodic status report to stakeholders.
In big companies the format of status reports is pre-defined. Some companies use software (and/or intranet site) that require project team member to enter various data and then automatically generate reports for the stake holders. This makes the task of Project manager easier. He at least does not need to spend time in creating status reports. And also he does not need to worry about what to include in the status report and when to send it.
But in many companies, they do not have any specific format. Project reporting structure varies project to project. In such scenario, it is very important to a project manager to develop his own format for status reporting. Tonight, I am going to help you out in status reporting. If you are not sure why you need to send status report, you can educate yourself by reading this article.
What to include in status report
First, you need to identify what information you want to include in your status report. A typical status report should show the current state of the project and how far it is from completion. It should also very clearly state whether the project is progressing as per schedule. You can include following items in your project report:
- Actual vs. planned efforts – When you begin a project, you plan for the schedule. In real world, it is very rate that the actual efforts are same as planned efforts. For this reason or that, there is always variance between the two. Always include a table in your status report that displays the actual vs. planned efforts of the overall project. You may also provide the same details for high level tasks as well. But do not include too much detail in your status report. Limit your tasks to a maximum of five.
- Percent complete – The one parameter which holds the interest of all stakeholders, regardless of their involvement and influence in the project, is %age complete figure. As a Project Manager, you always keep an eye on this figure. So it should be the easiest thing for you to include %age complete in your project status report.
- Actual vs. forecast (planned) spend – If you are also responsible for the project budget (in many IT companies, this is not the case always), you need to inform your project sponsor about the actual spend and forecast (planned) spend. While developing a project plan, you estimated the cost of the project. You arrive at this figure by calculating time, cost and schedule of carious tasks. As I mentioned in the point# 1, actuals are always different from planned. Hence include what you planned to spend on the project (up to the current state of project) and how much have you actually spent. You may also want to provide a very brief explanation of this variance.
- Number of open risks – Whether you do risk planning or not, there are always risks to a project. A risk may be as big as a roadblock to the project progress or it may be as small as one hour time loss. But risks are always there with the project. Hence it is a good idea to inform the number of open risks to the stake holders. If you want, you may include the degree of the risk as high, medium or low. So, for example, you can say 1 high, 3 medium and 7 low degree risks.
- Changes and issues – If you have got changes in the scope of your project, this should be informed. Some of you may have a change control mechanism in place which may require approval of project sponsor or stakeholders. So you may think that they already know about the changes. However, it is always a good idea to include changes in your status report. Similarly, if you are facing any issue, include that also. While including the issue, make sure that you specify if any action is required by the sponsor/stakeholder in order to resolve the issue.
- Forecast time and money – As a last step, forecast the amount of time, effort and money required to to finish the project. This is how much more time, effort and money you will need to finish the project as per the schedule. Always try to forecast as accurately as possible. Keep in mind that you should never forecast optimistically, always forecast conservatively. You never know when a sudden risk may appear.
When to send status report
OK. So now my status report is ready. When should I send it? Well, typically status report is sent on weekly basis. Whether it is Friday or Monday is something thing that you can discuss with your stakeholders. I like to send it on Monday morning because of two reasons – one, it gives true data of the week i.e. include weekend work, if and; and two, it reaches the stakeholders inbox on Monday afternoon, right when they are planning for the week.